The Synagogue of El-Griba (Djerba Island, Tunisia)
The Synagogue of El Griba is considered the main attraction of the island of Djerba in Tunisia. It is located in the center of the island in the most ancient Jewish settlement of Hara Shira (now the village of Riyadh). Visiting this place is considered an obligatory part of the excursion program on Djerba, but is it worth it? Let's try to understand, and tell about the synagogue of El-Grib in detail.
The word "fungus" (emphasis on the first syllable) is Arabic, translated as "alien." By this word, the Arabs in North Africa call all the synagogues, of which only 6 to 3 in Tunisia, 2 in Libya and 1 in Algeria remain in the region. And all six are called El-Griba. For this reason, the synagogue described by us should be called completely - "El-Griba Djerba", so as not to be confused with the rest.
The difference between El Griba and La Griba
"El" is the definite article in Arabic, "la" is the definite article in French. The difference is no, "El-Grib" - this is the name in Arabic, "La Griba" - in French.
A bit of history
In 586, the BC. There was a tragic event for all Jews - Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem, 10,000 Jews were taken into slavery in Babylon, and the First Jerusalem Temple (Solomon's Temple) was plundered and destroyed to the ground. At that moment, the official history of the El-Grib synagogue begins.
The most popular legend about the foundation of the synagogue of El-Griba was described to us by Rabbi Abraham Chaim Addadi de Tripoli in 1894. According to this version, the priest-priests fled from Jerusalem and escaped slavery, they took out one of the stones of the Temple of Solomon and laid it in the foundation of the El-Grib synagogue. This stone can now be seen in one of the crypts, but tourists are not allowed there without special permission.
Prove or disprove this version is now impossible, it can only be believed or not believed.
The second legend is recounted to us by the historian Nahum Slusch at the beginning of the twentieth century. According to legend, there was once a hill on this place, to which no one was concerned. But one day, local residents from the Jewish community found that a very beautiful girl had lodged on a hill in a hut of twigs. No one could approach her, something intangible was hindering people.
One night they saw that the hut was burning, and they were afraid that the girl is conjuring. In the morning, residents found that the hut had been burnt, and the girl was dead. People realized that she was a saint and built a synagogue on this place. This is an interesting version, but it does not give us any information about the time of construction.
There are also a dozen legends: that the synagogue originated itself in one night, that the place of construction was indicated to people by the celestial stone and others. They are difficult to comment on, it's hard to understand where the true folk legends are, where confusion, where the fictions of guides.
Since the construction of the building was rebuilt several times. The present building was erected in the 19th century.
In the 20th century, relations between Muslims and Jews became more acute. Many Jews left Djerba for Israel, and only a few hundred Jewish families remained in the village of Erriad. The aggravation of relations resulted in several terrible incidents.
In 1985, one of the soldiers guarding the synagogue of El-Grib during the holiday, opened fire on the crowd. Three people died, including a child.
In 2002, on April 11, a car exploded near the synagogue. This time the victims were even more - 21 people, 14 of them from Germany. After the last event, the security measures were strengthened, and the memorial plate reminds of the victims, which can be seen in the photo above.
And is it the oldest?
If you take on the faith of the legend of the foundation of El-Grib priest-koen immediately after the flight from Jerusalem in the 6th century BC, then the synagogue of El-Grib can safely be considered the oldest on the planet. The oldest synagogues in Jerusalem date back to the times of the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple - 70 AD.
But the problem is that the version on the basis of the synagogue by the koans has no evidence. A stone at the base can not serve as a proof, because it can not be dated by the method of radiocarbon analysis, since it is completely inorganic.
Where to find and how to get there
The village of Riyadh, where the synagogue is located, is located almost in the center of the island of Djerba, far from the resort zone (on our map is highlighted in green).
Fortunately, the island is small, and the cost of taxi trips in Tunisia is very low. A trip even from the farthest hotel will cost no more than 25 Tunisian dinars , and this even if the driver is "lucky in circles".
We recommend that you combine a visit to El-Grib with a survey of the DjerbaHood project pictures , between these sights 300 meters, save by taxi.
The second way to get there is an organized tour. Visit El Griba is included in the standard tour "City tour of the island of Djerba", which consists of: the inspection of the Roman road, the Ceramic workshop , the Guellal Museum and the tourist market in Houmt Souk.
Price of visit
Free of charge, you do not need to buy tickets.
Opening hours in summer are from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 17:00.
Opening hours in winter - from 9:30 to 12:00 and from 14:30 to 16:30.
Precisely it is not necessary to come on Saturday, as by tradition on Shabbat all local community gathers inside. The building is closed to tourists, as clearly stated on the sign in the photo on the right.
Another clearly unfortunate moment to visit is the time of pilgrimage. Pilgrims come here on the 14th day of the month of the month of the Jewish calendar. The Gregorian and Jewish calendars do not coincide, it is necessary to recalculate. In 2016, this day fell on May 22, in 2017 - this May 10, in 2018 - April 29, in 2019 - May 19, in 2020 - May 8.
Religious celebrations last from 14 Iyar to 18 Iyar - 4 days tourists in the synagogue of El-Grib have nothing to do. Of course, if you yourself are Jews, then this is quite another matter.
How much time to plan
The El-Grib's Synagogue is small, few tourists spend more than 10-15 minutes in it. You can walk around, see the hotel for pilgrims, take a picture near the old olive tree. All this will take a maximum of one hour, even if "stuck" in the big queue on security control.
Rules of conduct and dress code
In the room you can only go with a head covered, stock up on a headdress, any one is suitable, women can tie a headscarf on their heads. If not stocked, at the entrance you can take a pile (a small yarmulke) for 1 dinar.
Theoretically, there is a dress code in the synagogues - one should not go to women in shorts and the like, but no one pays any attention to El-Griba.
The synagogue is divided into two parts - the outer and the inner, where divine services take place. Before the door to the interior, you must remove your shoes. Be sure to wear socks!
Conducting the usual rules - turn off the mobile phone, do not make noise, do not stay inside while drunk, do not eat food and drinks.
What to look inside and out
The first step is to pass security control. All visitors are waiting for passage through the metal detector frame, and bags will be scanned. After the events of 2002, the procedure became mandatory for everyone, even for local residents.
If you come here on an excursion, you can seriously linger in the queue at the entrance - up to 10 minutes, if several groups arrive at the same time. The photo on the left shows the queue when only one group of tourists arrived, imagine what will happen if two or three arrive.
Next, you need to walk on the road about 100 meters. To the left will be the synagogue of El-Grib, on the right hotel for accommodation of pilgrims, in which there is really nothing to watch. The buildings look beautiful, white walls, blue windows and doors, everything is done in the best traditions of Tunisia.
Enter the synagogue, enjoy the beauty of the interior. The walls are decorated with tiles of blue, blue and green colors, benches for parishioners with carved legs and backs.
Do not forget to take off your shoes at the entrance to the prayer hall. To the left of the entrance you will see the chair on it stands Teva - a special chest where Torah scrolls are stored - one of the oldest in the world.
The opposite wall from the entrance is the local "Wailing Wall". They put notes with requests to God, as it is done on the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem . Everyone can put a note, irrespective of religion. Prepare notes in advance, no papers, no pens or pencils in the synagogue is not distributed.
We want to warn you that in the morning hours, when tourist groups come here, there are a lot of people in the prayer hall, often you have to stand and wait before you get to the wall.
Inside, you can take pictures. If something is not clear, you can ask the local rabbi, who is on duty at the entrance to the prayer hall. In Russian, he does not understand, in English only knows "Hello" and "Ok", probably with the knowledge of the French language it will be very useful.
At this visit to the synagogue El-Griba ends, there is nothing more to watch. If you go further along the street, you can find a very old olive tree. With him like to be photographed by tourists.
The main disappointment on Djerba
Visit to the synagogue of El-Grib can be called the main disappointment on Djerba. This landmark is very much touted, but nothing grandiose or very interesting here. You can see the synagogue in any major city of Russia.
Its antiquity has not been confirmed, except for legends. The exterior of the building is quite modern. The stone from the First Jerusalem Temple is not shown to tourists, the ancient torus is stored inside the casket, and is also inaccessible to visitors. This chest can be seen on the second photo in this article.
Note with desire - the only local entertainment (in the photo you can see this wall and tourists poking notes). But in actual fact it turns out that most of the tourists who came here did not know about this, and they do not have pens or papers. For many, this attraction is another disappointment.
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